We all know that every now in a while we like a good old poached egg or even a scrambled one. But according to a team of Australian and American researchers, our ancestor’s appetite for the delicious yolk drove a whole species of birds to extinction. The eggshell fossils found scattered all over Australia proved that our appetite for poached eggs led a gigantic bird to extinction.
A team comprised of American and Australian scientists might have ended a 100 years’ worth of debates. The team recently discovered a couple of eggshell fossils in various digging sites around Australia.
According to their observations, the eggshells belong to an extinct species of gigantic birds, called the Genyornis newtonis. These birds belong to a much larger family of animals called the megafauna. Genyornis, in the prime of its life, would have been 7 feet tall and around 500 pounds. Moreover, it would seem that the gigantic birds used to lay 3.5-pound eggs.
The researchers managed to link the extinction of the giant birds to man’s arrival in Australia using a couple of eggshells found in different sites all over the continent. According to the team of researchers, all of the analyzed eggshell samples had burned marks on them, as though someone cooked them, although such a conclusion drawn from a couple of burnt eggs would have been presumptuous at best.
Not wanting to take that leap of faith, the team of scientists began by dating the eggshells and piecing together the fact. Older theories suggested that the gigantic birds became extinct during the continental drying spell, an event which took place 40.000 to 60.000 years ago.
However, there were other studies that point out that the gigantic birds were still alive and kicking during the Pleistocene Epoch. During this era, several climate changes led many species to extinctions, but the gigantic birds were not affected. And so, it would be erroneous to presume that the milder continental drying could lead the birds who survived the climate shift to extinction.
The conclusion of the scientists was that our appetite for poached eggs led a gigantic bird to extinction. Ruling out Nature, the team turned towards human interference. According to their standing theory, after humans settled in Australia, approximately 85 percent of the Genyornis population went extinct.
Using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence, the scientists were able to determine the exact age of the eggshells found in dunes, by analyzing the quartz crystal’s exposure to sunlight. According to their result, the eggshells found in the dunes were 54.000 years old and the burn marks on them were not the result of wildfire, but of rudimentary cooking.